I was waiting on lunch at a booth in the Christmas market at Monte Carlo - cream of asparagus soup and an interesting sandwich of fried potato cakes around a ham center. Not the usual fare, although chestnuts were roasting nearby on an open hearth. This was 2003, the day sunny and cool, the flocked pine trees showing off their best imitation of snow while the blue Mediterranean sparkled past the megayachts in the harbor. A giant Santa and his mechanized reindeer presided over a landscape of wooden huts with gifts and goodies. Especially goodies - we topped off lunch with skewers of fresh tropical fruit dipped in white and dark chocolate. Christmas in Paris and Nice - and Monaco - was a great break from the wearying holiday crush of the United States. The streets were adorned with strings of lights, and each city had its own offerings, from the trucked-in snow at Menton to the huge outdoor ice rink in the heart of Paris to the child-centered market in Nice. Christmas music was present but muted, Santa the same. "Joyeaux Noel!" shopkeepers sang out. The shops were active but not frantic, except for Monoprix, which is a French amalgam of Wal-Mart and Woolworth's and Sears. Many people shopped at the stalls along the streets. Jack bought a black cap and I bought a white lambswool scarf from a street vendor on the Champs Elysee. I tossed the scarf around my throat the other day when the air was raw, and remembered it all.
My third novel, Blood Clay, will appear in November from Press 53. It is set in Piedmont North Carolina, my home since 1997.
Other books: Wake Wake Wake, a poetry collection; Fidelities, a short story collection; a novel about the 1970s called Survivor; and an SF novel way back when, Neena Gathering, in Brazil published as Mundo Perdido.
I teach at North Carolina A and T State University after a long career as a newspaper reporter and editor. And late in life I have taken up sailing - look for High Cotton on Lake Kerr.
All original material on this site is Copyright, Valerie Nieman.